Monday, 20 September 2010

Newbie Cyclist in London

Last month, with all the hype around the Boris Bike scheme, I decided to sign up for it and give it a go. I do so much walking around the City; I thought it would make sense to jump on a cycle where convenient.

While I trawled through the tfl website I came across the cycle route planner and out of curiosity I plugged in my home and work locations to see what it would come up with. To my surprise it calculated a 9 mile route between North London and the City, which avoided a lot of the major traffic heavy roads and estimated it would take approximately an hour at an easy pace.

Given that it takes me at least 45mins to commute into work via Tube, this sounded pretty attractive. I started to think about all that money I could save by not topping up my oyster and all that exercise I would get with only adding 15 mins to my journey each way. Plus the benefit of avoiding the crush and uncertainty of the tube, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of this earlier.

All the stars seemed to be aligned as I found out the firm I work for are participating in the cycle2work scheme which makes buying a decent bike very affordable as the cost of the bike is spread across your 12 months salary and it is taken out before tax.

So I got down to the local bike shop and got the low down on what’s out there.

I decided upon getting a hybrid, which has become one of the most popular styles of bike for city commuters. It has the sturdiness of a mountain bike, but not as heavy. I can’t envisage sticking the bike on the back of the car and drive up to Snowdonia for a biking weekend, so a hybrid seemed to be a right fit.

After chatting to the guy in the shop and checking out different models on the web, I opted for the Ridgeback Meteor. At £380 it’s a reasonable price and it comes with mudguards and rack as standard.

So with shiny new bike I was ready to hit the road. I had plotted out my route on google maps and had it accessible from my Android phone. I chose to go on a dry run on the weekend to test out the route.

First problem I had was that I didn’t know what I was doing with the gears. But after about 15 mins I think I got the hang of it. I also slipped into a low gear at the wrong time and my chain popped off. As any person who doesn’t know what they’re doing does these days, I googled what to do on my phone. I found out that cycle chains are flexible and I was able to pull it back on.

A few days later I decided to cycle for real to work and I had a great time. I had a stop a few times to check I was going the right way, but it felt so good, driving down pretty clear streets and once I hit Highbury and Islington I was joined by dozens of other cyclists and the remaining route was nearly all the way on cycle paths. I had a shower at work and I swear I felt more refreshed than sitting all the way on a stinking tube.

So far so good for the first week. I'm having loads of fun tracking my journeys using the free MyTracks app on my Android phone too. I can see how fast I have been going, where the inclines are and saves exactly where I ride.

Please keep checking back to see how I get on and whether I can keep going through the winter!.


  1. Good on you. I've been cycle commuting in London for 5 years and wouldn't have it any other way.

    The Ridgeback should serve you well. Doing 18 miles daily, make sure you change the chain every 6 months so as to keep the cogs in good order.

  2. Thanks for the advice Paul. Any other maintenance tips would be appreciated :-)